GENREfication

I’m sure it began with the best of intentions. The rebellious child of Blues and Country, Rock & Roll was a complete departure from the Hit Parade. New, different, shiny, this music needed its own name. Then, like Protestants after the reformation, the splits just kept coming.

In the first wave of these changes, the new names made sense: Motown from the studio that produced the signature sound, Acid Rock from the drugs needed to enjoy the music, Disco for the place where you would hear and enjoy the music. With the exception of Prog Rock (Progressive Rock, the granddaddy of unclearly labeled music) most genre labels were straightforward.

The shift began in the 80s, when American pop culture went to high school and stayed there. The Breakfast Club, Saved by the Bell and other teen focused entertainment had the world thinking in terms of cliques, with clothing and music being the chief markers for identity. The pop tarts did their best Madonna impressions while the metal heads wore T-shirts emblazoned with flames, skulls and large angry fonts, which nicely complimented their unwashed hair. Alternatively, the new wave kids listened to the Smiths and wore their fan club buttons as badges of honor. New wave, referring to exclusively to music—not dreadful fashion mistakes—was the designation for music not in heavy rotation on MTV. The B-52s, The Violent Femmes and The Cure, having little in common, have been lumped together in this category. As with Alternative in the 90s, or Indie Rock today, it was essentially a catchall term for music outside the mainstream. The labels said more about the music than what it actually sounded like. Subsequently giving rise to the use of sub-genres. Continue reading →

Night Watch (Nochnoi Dozor)

Movie Review >>

Night Watch photoNight Watch photo courtesy Fox Searchlight

In every generation there is a chosen one. She alone will stand against the vampires, the demons, and the forces of darkness. She is the slayer. Oh wait, wrong story … kind of. In Night Watch (Nochnoi Dozor), there aren’t just vampires, there are entire races of both good (Light) and bad (Dark) guys called “Others” (no, not those Others) and the Chosen One doesn’t necessarily have to be a good guy.

Night Watch poster
Night Watch
(Fox Searchlight)
Rated: R
starstarstarhalf star (out of 4)
Official Site
Trailer
Metacritic
IMDb

Night Watch begins over 1000 years ago with an epic battle between Light and Dark. The brutal battle finally ends in a truce between Light and Dark, in which they agree that no Other can be forced to choose the side of good or evil, they have to choose for themselves. To ensure this, each side sets up police forces of sorts called, Night Watch and Day Watch, respectively. Like all stories that involve the eternal battle of good versus evil, there is a prophesy. The prophesy foretells a day when a chosen one will appear who can end the eternal battle between Light and Dark. When the chosen one is revealed, he will be given a choice to choose between Light and Dark. Whichever side he chooses will decide the fate of the world. Kind of a large burden for one person to carry.

Cut to 1992, where we meet Anton Gordesky (played by Konstantin Khabensky who may be the Russian Clive Owen). Anton’s fianc?�e has left him for another man and he wants her back, so naturally, he goes to see a witch. The witch informs him that his fianc?�e is not only with another man, but she’s pregnant with this man’s child. She tells him that in order to get his fianc?�e back, the child will have to be killed. Before the witch can finish the job, Night Watch comes in and arrests her. It is then that Anton realizes that he is an Other. 12 years later, Anton is working with Night Watch to track a child that is being summoned by a vampire. Tracking this child turns out to be much more than Night Watch bargained for as Anton discovers that the apocalypse might be right around the corner and the boy he is tracking could be the Great One who would mark the beginning of the last battle between Light and Dark. And that’s really only the beginning of the story. The problem with a trilogy piece for a reviewer is that the end of the first part is really only a third of the way through the entire story. It makes me want to tell you more, but, you know, then you’d know the entire plot, and where’s the fun in that?

Like most films about vampires, demons, and otherworldly creatures, Night Watch is full of darkness. Nighttime, people dressed in black, leather, etc., but the Russians get the underworld movie right where we Americans get it wrong. How? Instead of trying to be cool, they just are cool (so cool, in fact, that they included a clip from Buffy the Vampire Slayer in the movie (“Buffy v. Dracula,” if you’re wonedering)). And, unlike most American movies in this genre, you don’t get the impression that the actors are sending out desperate subliminal messages to the audience that say, “Yeah, I know this is pretty lame, but I’m just doing it until I can get my big break in the next Jane Austen movie and be just as respected as Keira Knightly.” Night Watch is stylistic in all the right places and relies on simple acting when it needs to. Even the film’s approach to subtitles is pretty damn cool. At times, the actors walk right into the subtitles, obscuring them, or making them disappear, at other times, they type the text right onto the screen.

Will Night Watch be winning any awards? Probably not. I have to admit that at times it looked a little bit more cheesy B-movie than kickass vampire movie, but whatever. Like all films (and tv shows) in this genre, no matter how well acted and executed it is and no matter how well the story is told, its still just a movie about Vampires, Witches, and Others to some people. It can’t go any deeper than that, right? Ehh, maybe not. But, there were times when I couldn’t help but wonder if the message that the Light Others who thought they were helping the world, were doing exactly what the bad guys were doing, they just had righteousness on their side, and that made them right, whether or not they actually were (sound familiar?), had less to do with Vampires and Demons and had more to do with the state of the world today. But, you know, what do I know? I’m telling you to see a movie about things that don’t really exist.

In the end, I’m selling the same line I’ve been trying to sell to people for years. Yeah, some people don’t need to be sold, and you people know who you are. You’re the people who saw Underworld and were disappointed (obviously some of you weren’t, they did make a sequel), and the people who saw Constantine even though it starred Keanu as the chosen one … again. You don’t really need to be convinced to see a movie like this. But the rest of you, the ones who still laugh when people tell you that Buffy the Vampire Slayer was actually good, you might need to be convinced just a little bit more. So, go see it. I dare you to walk out of the theater not feeling just a little bit cooler for it.

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STARRING: Konstantin Khabensky, Vladimir Menshov, Valeri Zolotukhin, Mariya Poroshina, Galina Tyunina, Yuri Kutsenko, Aleksei Chadov, and Zhanna Friske
GENRE(S): Action, Fantasy, Foreign, Horror, Mystery, Sci-fi, Suspense/Thriller
WRITTEN BY: Timur Bekmambetov, Laeta Kalogridis, Sergei Lukyanenko (novel)
DIRECTED BY: Timur Bekmambetov
RELEASE DATE: Theatrical: February 17, 2006
RATING: R
RUNNING TIME: 114 minutes, Color
ORIGIN: Russia
LANGUAGE(S): Russian (with English subtitles)

Washington DC Independent Film Festival Opens this Thursday

DC Independent Film Festival

What cities do you think of when you think of independent films? Park City, Utah? You bet. New York City? Of course. Washington, DC? You didn’t read wrong. For 11 days in March, Washington, DC is home to The Washington DC Independent Film Festival (DCIFF) and it has been for the past six years. Each year, the DCIFF features “world premiere films, award winning features, shorts, animations, and documentaries.”

As with most film festivals, the DCIFF bestows various honors on its most outstanding films each year. They award films in each category they screen throughout the festival (feature, animation, short, and documentary). These awards include the Grand Jury Award, the Audience Award, the Visionary Award (which is “presented to a film of social or political importance that can provoke change”), the Washington, DC Filmmaker Award (“presented to [a] DC filmmaker for outstanding creative achievement”), the Cine Latino Award (awarded to the best Latin film), and the World Cinema Award, which will be presented this year to the most outstanding film from South Asia. Grand Jury Prize winners receive the DC Production Grant, which gives the Grand Jury Winners monetary and promotional support.

Founded by Carol Bidault in 1999, the festival first appeared on the scene in March of 2000 calling itself, “DCDANCE” as a nod to the world renouned Sundance Film Festival. In its first year, it lasted only three days, but featured 30 films, including the premiere of director Barry Levinson’s (Liberty Heights, Sleepers) documentary, Original Diner Guys. That same year, the DC Independent Film Market and Trade Show was founded. It now coincides with DCIFF and provides DC filmmakers the opportunity to meet with industry professionals, such as buyers, distributors, and agents. This is a unique opportunity because it is the only film trade show of its kind in the DC area. The next year, the festival changed its name to the name its stayed with, The Washington DC Independent Film Festival. Over the next few years, the festival gradually expanded, and garnered praise from local film critics like Stephen Hunter. Continue reading →

Manderlay

Movie Review >>

Manderlay photoManderlay photo courtesy IFC Films

Danish writer/director Lars von Trier, best known in the states for engaging yet cinematically daring melodramas Breaking the Waves and Dancer in the Dark, gave the world a bit of a shock in 2003 with Dogville. Grace, played by Nicole Kidman, a pretty young thing on the lam, is taken in by a seemingly kind town only to be raped and thrown into slavery. By using David Bowie���s ���Young Americans��� during the end credits over ill-sitting images of my-country-tis-o-thee, von Trier delivered the message (in a not-so-subtle way) that Americans defile the gifts given to them.

Manderlay poster
Manderlay
(IFC Films)
Rated: NR
starstarstar (out of 4)
Official Site
Trailer
Metacritic
IMDb

It���s a great film ��� three hours long and not a boring minute. Trier knows how to make an amazing film, as anyone who has seen Breaking the Waves can attest. Anti-American? Eh, maybe a bit, but more social commentary with a dash of nihilism for good measure.

Manderlay, the second film in von Trier���s ���U.S.A ��� Land of Opportunities��� trilogy keeps the same aesthetics and is equally as shocking as Dogville, but less poignant as its themes get lost in the director���s shock tactics. While still a good unsettling yarn, Manderlay is also unfulfilling.

Travelling across country after the incident at Dogville, Grace (now played by Bryce Dallas Howard, spawn of Ron) and her gangster father (Willem Dafoe) stop by the gated plantation Manderlay to find that the residents of the plantation have no idea slavery has been abolished. The blacks are still planting cotton and getting whipped by the overseers.

In an obvious Iraq war analogy, Grace uses her gang of well-armed gangsters to easily depose the weakened tyrant Mam (Lauren Bacall) and enforce ���democracy��� on the newly freed slaves, even rounding them up to attend lectures on freedom. But Grace���s idealism over practicality mindset has dire consequences, as her lack of foresight leads to famine and unrest among blacks, who weren���t all that thrilled about freedom in the first place.

Howard is a suitable replacement for Kidman; she���s preachy to the point of annoyance, but it works well for the idealistic Grace. Is she trying to figure out whether she really wants to help the inhabitants of Manderlay or is using this exercise for personal salvation, penance for the ���white guilt��� she feels? Howard shines in exploring Grace���s sexual curiosity toward the Africans, particularly her erotic interest in proud Timothy (Isaach De Bankol?�), an African Munci supposedly descended from the blood of kings.

Von Trier visually contrasts idealism and reality by switching between gorgeous zooming overhead shots that clearly show the layout of Manderlay and shaky handheld camerawork on the ground. As in Dogville, von Trier uses a soundstage with minimal props for a set: running water and doors are displayed by sound effects, workers plow nonexistent fields, and buildings are drawn by chalk outlines, complete with informative labels. The lighting is awkward and hazy, obscuring figures, while the lack of props opens enclosed spaces and let us peer where we normally couldn���t.

But in winding down, the film loses focus. The pacing lags and the timeline makes no sense. While Dogville was straightforward in its themes, Manderlay gets muddled in its Iraq parallels versus the psychological effects of oppression versus black and white relationships. Scenes such as when the former overseers are forced to put on black makeup and serve the former slaves serve no purpose except to set the audience at unease. The resolution reeks of misanthropy. Von Trier loses his grip in trying to one-up Dogville, stomping all over his points and our senses.

Still, Manderlay is jarring and eerily watchable. Von Trier proves once again he���s an excellent filmmaker, even with the most unpleasant subject material. Perhaps once he gets off this ���shock and awe��� kick, he���ll make another excellent flick. Washington, to be released in 2007, concludes the ���U.S.A.��� trilogy.

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STARRING: Bryce Dallas Howard, Isaach De Bankol?�, Danny Glover, Willem Dafoe, Jeremy Davies, Lauren Bacall, Chlo?� Sevigny, and Jean-Marc Barr
GENRE(S): Drama
WRITTEN BY: Lars von Trier
DIRECTED BY: Lars von Trier
RELEASE DATE: Theatrical: January 27, 2006
RATING: NR
RUNNING TIME: 139 minutes, Color
ORIGIN: Denmark / Sweden / Netherlands / France / Germany / USA
LANGUAGE(S): English

This Week In Music

Picks for the week of Friday, February 24 — Thursday, March 2.

This week is a bit sparse here in the District. I think those seven snowflakes we had Wednesday morning scared everyone away. Nevertheless, check out our venue listings page for a more complete musical calendar.

Saturday Feb 25 >>

Pyramid is an eight-piece from North Carolina that plays experimental Americana. Two of their songs were featured in All the Real Girls, one of my favorite recent movies. They are playing tonight at the Warehouse Next Door, alongside three post-hardcore groups: Dance Danse El Capitan, Catalyst, and Mass Movement of the Moth. FREE MP3: “Monster in the Canyon” by Pyramid.

Sunday Feb 26 >>

Antelope
Antelope

Antelope never play shows anymore. But they’re playing this Sunday night at the Warehouse Next Door. If you’re interested in local indie-rock, you know this is a show you shouldn’t miss. Our PICK OF THE WEEK, the show is opened by Meneguar and Rahim, along with Recoupero, who are making their live debut. FREE MP3: “Game Over” by Antelope

We’ve slowly realized that Monopoli is one of the hardest-working bands in the area. These dark post-punkers are playing, strangely enough, at the Iota Club & Cafe, alongside Spiraling and the Making.

Wednesday March 1 >>

Faraday hates being likened to Death Cab for Cutie. It’s a facile comparison, but pretty acurate. This four-piece indie-pop outfit from Arlington plays the Black Cat on Wednesday, opening for Baltimore’s the Metal Hearts.

Thursday March 2 >>

Benevento-Russo Duo
Benevento-Russo Duo

I’ve been trying categorize the Benevento-Russo Duo since I first heard them last May. Um, there’s two of them. One plays the keys, the other drums, and they’re from Brooklyn. At first I thought they were a jamband, and I ignored them. Then I heard “Soba,” which sounded like shoegaze on speed. The band has full live shows available for download on their website, and will be playing the State Theatre on Thursday.

Remember Mary Lou Lord? She was on Kill Rock Stars in the mid-90s, did a couple songs with Elliott Smith, and was a lot friendlier to me than Ani Di Franco. Her major label debut, Got No Shadow has become a landmark of folk-pop. She plays the Iota Club & Cafe on Thursday, alongside Jon Kaplan of the Bicycle Thieves.

Dont Miss This Show! Be Your Own PET and Pash Tonight at Black Cat

Be Your Own Pet
be your own PET

BE YOUR OWN PET and PASH
LIVE TONIGHT AT BLACK CAT
1811 14TH ST NW DC
TUESDAY, FEBRUARY 21
9PM, ONLY $7

This may be your last chance to see them before they get huge. The Mudsugar crew will be there if you want to come by and say hello.

Be Your Own Pet Poster

be your own PET are a four-piece punk band from Nashville, Tennessee. So what, you say? How about this: in less than one year they’ve dropped four singles and recorded a soon-to-be-released full-length on XL Recordings, the musical home of M.I.A., the White Stripes, Dizzee Rascal, Devendra Banhart, the Prodigy, and Basement Jaxx. Rolling Stone named them one of the Top Ten Bands To Watch In 2006, and they’ve played SXSW and the Reading/Leeds and Glastonbury Festivals. Oh yeah, and at age eighteen, lead singer Jemina Pearl is the oldest member of the band. These kids impressed us so much we decided to sponsor their show at the Black Cat. Pash plays first, and has the perfect sound to complement the show. Tuesday’s line-up poses only one problem. Which lead singer is the cutest? They’re both our PICK OF THE WEEK.

The poster for this show was designed by El Jefe DesignCheck it out.

Free MP3’s: “Vacation” by Be Your Own Pet, “Birthday Song” by Pash